Study finds little certainty on Lafarge's health impact

Company files environmental impact statement on plant modernization

A state Department of Health report on the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena has shed little light on whether that factory's emissions are having any effect on residents' health.

The report states that while the public could be exposed to chemicals from the plant by air and settled dust, health data collected in the ZIP codes around the plant appear to be similar to rates across New York State. The plant has been in operation for almost 50 years.

The Community Advocates for Safe Emissions (CASE) group pressed the DOH for the study in 2009, but at the release of the findings said they were unhappy with the scope.

"I'm not sure that our questions are completely answered by what we have here," said CASE's Elyse Kunz, who noted the five ZIP codes covered by the study do not completely cover the area surrounding the factory, or the entire Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District. The RCS high school is located across the road from the Lafarge plant.

But the DOH will be launching another phase of study narrowing in on the potential effects of the plant's emissions, which includes mercury, and also focusing on areas where contamination could be the highest. The Lafarge cement plant is one of the most substantial emitters of mercury in the state.

According to the report, "Although available health risk assessments suggest that air emissions from the cement plant are not likely to increase the risk for adverse health effects, they are an incomplete basis for drawing conclusions about the risk from cement plant air emissions."

Lafarge Ravena Plant Environmental Manager John Reagan said the company is still studying the report. He added the plant operates well within state and federal guidelines, and the company has reduced many emissions since taking over the facility.

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